Cities Can Fund a Right to Counsel for Eviction Hearings—And They Should

Cities Can Fund a Right to Counsel for Eviction Hearings—And They Should


The Point

Legal representation during an eviction hearing significantly improves a person’s chances of remaining in their home. Among other ways, cities can use the funding from federal pandemic relief bills to ensure their residents have this critical legal representation. 

Cities can make sure people facing eviction have a lawyer to help them:

An eviction right to counsel is critical in this moment:

  • Evictions are a public health crisis. As the authors of a recent academic article note, “Eviction is likely to increase COVID-19 infection rates because it results in overcrowded living environments, doubling up, transiency, limited access to healthcare, and a decreased ability to comply with pandemic mitigation strategies.”
  • Evictions have continued, despite the protections both federal and state governments have put in place. Throughout the pandemic, landlords have still filed evictions, judges have still granted them, and overwhelmed tenants unaware of their legal rights have still been displaced. 
  • Legal representation helps tenants fight back against landlords who exploit loopholes in eviction moratoriums and challenge tenant defenses against eviction. Representation can also help tenants access rental assistance, meaningfully participate in mediation, and establish payment plans for overdue rent.
  • A right to counsel demonstrably improves outcomes. In New York City, for example, the right to counsel resulted in 86% of tenants remaining in their homes. In Cleveland, 93% of the represented tenants were able to avoid eviction. 

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